Soil orders

Melanic Soils [E]

Perhaps the most naturally fertile soils in New Zealand. They grow high quality pinot noir.

Melanic Soils have black or dark grey topsoils that are well structured. The subsoil either contains lime, or has a well-developed structure and is neutral or only slightly acid.

Melanic soil. Credit - The Living Mantle
Melanic soil. Credit - The Living Mantle
Melanic soil on limestone, Waipara.
Melanic soil on limestone, Waipara.


Melanic Soils occupy small areas scattered throughout New Zealand, in association with lime-rich rocks or dark (basic) volcanic rocks. They cover 1% of New Zealand.

View map View map of Melanic soils.

Physical properties

Topsoil structure is usually stable. The soils shrink on drying and swell on wetting.

Chemical properties

Natural fertility is high. Base saturation is high with high exchangeable calcium or magnesium. The clay fraction is usually dominated by swelling (smectite) clays.

Biological properties

These soils are biologically very active with high populations of soil organisms.

Soil groups

Soil orders are divided into soil groups based on variation in factors such as drainage status, parent material, chemical and physical properties

[EV] Vertic Melanic

Clayey with high capacity for shrink-swell

[EP] Perch-Gley Melanic

Periodic wetness caused by a perched water table

[ER] Rendzic Melanic

Limestone or lime rich rock at shallow depth

[EM] Mafic Melanic

On dark igneous rocks or sediments

[EO] Orthic Melanic

Other Melanic Soils